East Penn Press

Monday, June 1, 2020

Trump tours Upper Macungie medical distribution facility

Thursday, May 21, 2020 by SARIT LASCHINSKY Special to The Press in Local News

President Donald Trump made his first visit to the Lehigh Valley as president May 14 to tour the Owens & Minor Inc. medical supply distribution center, 7437 Industrial Blvd., Upper Macungie Township.

During a live-stream video on the White House webpage, Trump discussed increasing the Strategic National Stockpile, coronavirus testing and state reopening plans.

Speaking against a backdrop of boxes of protective gowns, Trump addressed an audience of several dozen employees wearing neon-colored T-shirts, sitting at least 6 feet apart and wearing masks. Trump did not wear a mask during the tour.

He praised the workers for their dedicated work to provide essential supplies of masks, respirators, gowns and gloves to “health care warriors” in hospitals fighting the coronavirus, especially in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

He said the workers “have answered the call in America’s hour of need.

“It’s a critical role you’ve fulfilled incredibly well, or I wouldn’t be here,” Trump said. “I would’ve found someplace else.”

He also said Owens & Minor was one of the distributors participating in the government’s Project Airbridge initiative bringing in critically-needed protective equipment by airlift from overseas.

According to the company website, Owens & Minor has government contracts to produce millions of N95 respirators over the next 18 months and has ramped up mask manufacturing capacity by 300 percent since the beginning of the pandemic.

“On behalf of our nation, I want to thank you because you’re making America proud,” Trump said. “You’re going to lead the way. With your help, we will vanquish the virus. We’re going to vanquish the plague.”

Trump also thanked company president and CEO Edward Pesicka and COO Jeff Jochims, and praised accompanying officials including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor, Adam Boehler, CEO of the United States International Development Finance Corporation and Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, vice director of Logistics, Joint Staff.

Regarding the state of the Strategic National Stockpile, which was undersupplied for the coronavirus pandemic, Trump blamed former President Barack Obama’s administration, saying they had depleted the equipment inventory during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak.

Trump said the revamped stockpile will contain a three-month supply of essential equipment in preparation for future disasters.

“Never again will another president inherit empty shelves or expired products,” Trump said about the plan to increase equipment reserves to create the stockpile.

Additionally, Trump touted the replenishment of the stockpile as part of his “America First” policy stance, saying a majority of the supplies would be American-made and that he would bring critical manufacturing of goods, emergency supplies including ventilators, respirators and face shields, and medicine to the United States.

During his speech, Trump also criticized Gov. Tom Wolf’s strategy for lifting stay-at-home orders and advocated for the state to reduce restrictions.

Wolf has faced push back against his phased reopening plan, which has moved 37 counties into the “yellow” reduced restriction phase by May 15 and has threatened to impose consequences on counties which abandon the reopening order.

“We have to get your governor of Pennsylvania to start opening up a little bit. You have areas of Pennsylvania that are barely affected, and they want to keep them closed. You can’t do that,” Trump told workers.

Trump’s statements come days after he tweeted that Democratic governors were purposefully moving slowly in their reopening measures for political purposes and that Pennsylvanians “want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails.”

The POWER interfaith coalition released a press release May 13 opposing Trump’s visit, stating that “Trump’s efforts to prematurely reopen virus-stricken Pennsylvania counties devalues human life, especially those of essential workers, the elderly, and those with preexisting conditions.”

The Rev. Gregory Edwards of the Resurrected Life Community Church of Allentown said Trump’s visit was a “political stunt meant to rattle the chain of Governor Wolf,” while Bishop Dwayne Royster, interim executive director of POWER said the trip was “an attempt to undermine our rights as voters.”

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Editor’s note: The White House limited media access to President Donald Trump’s arrival to Lehigh Valley Airport and his tour of the Owens & Minor Inc. medical supply distribution center in Upper Macungie Township. The reporter for the Lehigh Valley Press was invited to live stream Trump’s tour.